NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: HIV prevention strategies must encompass all

feature tile: image of HIV virus under microscope; text 'Eliminating HIV needs increased focus on prevention strategies that encompass all populations'

The image in the feature tile is an HIV micrograph from the article HIV diagnoses in Australia remained low in 2022: new data published yesterday (20 July 2023) on the UNSW Sydney Newsroom webpage.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

HIV prevention strategies must encompass all

Despite disruptions to testing and risk behaviour during COVID-19, the latest data from University of NSW (UNSW) Sydney’s Kirby Institute shows Australia is tracking well towards the elimination of HIV transmission. HIV diagnoses in Australia have halved over the last decade, and have remained stable over the past year, according to new data by the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney.

Dr Skye McGregor, head of the Surveillance Innovation Research Group at the Kirby Institute said, “We can see the impact of prevention strategies like increasing HIV testing, treatment as prevention, and pre-exposure prophylaxis particularly among gay and bisexual men, for whom new diagnoses have been dropping significantly since 2014. These data suggest that to eliminate HIV, there needs to be increasing focus on prevention strategies that encompass all populations.”

HIV diagnoses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have increased over the past year, with 25 diagnoses in 2022. Robert Monaghan, Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health research at the Kirby Institute says although numbers are low compared to the general population, any increase among this population is concerning. “We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face additional barriers to accessing prevention and care. People in rural and remote communities were also more likely to have their regular health activities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-designed campaigns rolled out in partnership with local community organisations are needed, focused on testing, treatment, and PrEP,” he says.

To view the Kirby Institute | UNSW Media article HIV diagnoses in Australia remained low in 2022: new data in full click here.

Wirraka Maya to celebrate 30 years

Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (WMHSAC) is an ACCHO designed to ensure our clients’ journey through the health system meets their medical, health, social and cultural needs. WMHSAC originated from the efforts of Aboriginal people to establish a health service that addressed the unmet needs of Aboriginal people in the Port Hedland, South Hedland areas and surrounding communities.

WMHSAC has over 7,000 Aboriginal people registered and are actively engaged and regularly receiving primary care, wellbeing and prevention services and programs. WMHSAC has an experienced team of health professionals, including AHWs and AHPs, GPs and nurses as well as visiting Specialists and Allied Health Practitioners. WMHSAC’s mission is to provide evidence-based and best practice primary health care services, social and emotional wellbeing services, as well as a recognised educational and training service.

This year WMHSAC is celebrating 30 years. You can view the invitation to WMHSAC’s 30 Year Celebrations Gala Dinner being held on Friday 11 August 2023 here and a flyer for a ‘Celebrating 30 years of Wirraka Maya’ community event from 3.30–6.30pm on Thursday 10 August 2023 to be held at the South Hedland Town Square, here.

For further information, you can access the Wirraka Maya Health Service website here.

First to gain PhD and stand for federal parliament

If anyone could be held up as an inspiration for The Voice for Australia’s Indigenous people, it would be Gordon Briscoe, born in the most inauspicious circumstances in Alice Springs in 1938.

His father, a white man, Ron Price, who was a telegraph station manager, died shortly after his birth. When his mother went to work at a station, the boy was mostly left in the care of two teenage girls at the Old Telegraph Station. Briscoe was picked up in a cattle truck and evacuated to the south with other Aboriginal people during World War II. In his words, it was the “evacuation of the half-castes from the half-caste institutions in and around the NT”.

For a time, he was placed in a SA internment camp for “aliens”. He failed to make progress at school and left barely able to read and write, and was obliged to make his way in a racially bigoted society. From those beginnings, he moved on to become a leading light for his people, helping them to organise, establish services to cater for basic needs, and he led the fight for recognition.

Briscoe eventually resumed his education, went to university and became the first Indigenous Australian to become a PhD, stood as a candidate for federal parliament and otherwise devoted himself to the advancement of his people.

To read Malcolm Brown’s obituary of Gordon Briscoe published yesterday in WAtoday click here.

Dr Gordon Briscoe

Dr Gordon Briscoe at the launch of his book Counting, Health and Identity. Photo: Fairfax. Image source: WAtoday.

Have your say: pancreatic cancer care 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to develop and die from pancreatic and other upper gastro-intestinal (GI) cancers than other Australians. It’s time to change that. Cancer Australia has developed the National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap and identified five priority areas for implementation. Priority 5 is to develop a culturally responsive and appropriate model of care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The University of Queensland is working with Cancer Australia to identify key implementation factors and important barriers and enablers to the uptake of suitable models of care through consultations with key stakeholders. UQ want to hear from you if you or your organisation supports, advocates, has cared for or is caring for:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients
  • Cancer patients in regional and remote areas
  • People affected by pancreatic and/or other GI and complex cancers

You can have your say before Wednesday 9 August 2023 by clicking here.

For further information you can view the UQ flyer here. A related video from the Australian Government Cancer Australia Culturally safe communication skills – Staging and treatment webpage, available here, provides an overview of the key considerations when communicating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during staging and treatment.

LGBTIQ+ mob face extra hurdles

Among First Nations people who identify as LGBTIQA+ are faced with extra barriers to tertiary education and corporate opportunities, new data has shown. Research from The Pinnacle Foundation, which provides scholarships and mentoring programs for young LGBTQIA+ people, has laid bare the complex experiences of those living at the intersection of being of First Nations heritage and part of the LGBTIQA+ community.

More than 40% of those surveyed believed First Nations LGBTQIA+ people faced extra hurdles accessing tertiary education, while 46% said it was harder for them to launch post-graduate careers. More than a quarter of respondents who were employed had left their jobs due to discrimination or feeling isolated. The new research supports findings in a landmark 2021 survey of healthcare professionals and 63 Indigenous LGBTIQ+ members in WA by Edith Cowan University’s Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research.

Its report called for effective responses to mental health issues First Nations LGBTIQ+ communities across Australia faced, after 73% of respondents said they were discriminated against in the 12 months prior. While a third of participants felt “invisible” within their First Nations communities due to their sexual or gender identity, elders engaged in the research were very supportive of promoting their acceptance. Pinnacle Foundation alumni and proud Cammeraigal man Benjamin McGrory, an arts and law student at the University of Sydney, said Elders were crucial to building confidence in LGBTQIA+ people and fostering their acceptance.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Indigenous LGBTIQ+ community face extra hurdles to career success in full click here.

Pinnacle Foundation alumni and proud Cammeraigal man Benjamin McGrory

Pinnacle Foundation alumni and proud Cammeraigal man Benjamin McGrory. Photo: University of Sydney. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Pregnancy and postnatal care survey

From July 2023, Monash University will supporting the development and updating of Living Evidence for Australian Pregnancy and Postnatal Care (LEAPP) Guidelines, available here, to start updating the current guidance on pregnancy care and developing new guidance on postnatal care.

They have opened a prioritisation survey, which aims to capture the opinions, ideas and diverse experiences of Australian healthcare practitioners and others who provide pregnancy and/or postnatal care or guidance. The prioritisation survey, available here, asks respondents to think about care during and after pregnancy – but not during labour and delivery. Key focus areas include:

  • topics that pose the largest clinical uncertainty;
  • topics that are likely to have the greatest impact on patient outcomes; and
  • topics where evidence is emerging or the context is changing, requiring new or different guidance.

They are especially interested in areas that have the highest uncertainty and cause the most angst for clinicians. Your collective responses will help them shape the prioritisation process over the months and years ahead. The survey takes 5-10 minutes to complete and closes on Friday 4 August 2023. To help the team gather as many views as possible, you are being asked to complete the survey and also share it with your members/networks.

Aboriginal Family Birthing Program participant having blood pressure taken

Aboriginal Family Birthing Program participant. Image source: Women’s and Children’s Hospital website.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

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